Over 40 Israelis who flew on an El Al flight to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Wednesday were detained by Russian security officials and had their passports confiscated.
Most of the Israeli passengers on the flight, including children, were moved to a separate area from the other passengers and were fingerprinted and individually questioned.
The travelers accompanied by small children are particularly furious, accusing Russia authorities of delaying them just because they are Israelis.
The Russian embassy in Israel responded that “until December 1, 5,771 Russian tourists were denied entry into Israel. In October alone of this year, 568 Russian tourists were denied entry into Israel and 569 tourists in November. Every day, about 20 tourists who arrive in Israel with money and an organized tour are stopped and sent back to Russia.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated that it is investigating the matter with the Russian Foreign Ministry and taking steps to ensure that Israeli businessmen and tourists will be able to enter Russia.
Earlier this week, eight Israeli businessmen were also detained in the Moscow airport and held overnight, a Channel 12 News report said. The next morning the businessmen were forced to return to Israel, with Russians security officials claiming that the businessman lacked work permits for Russia. However, the businessmen, representatives of large Israeli companies, travel regularly to Moscow and had never been required to have work permits in the past.
Relations between Israel and Russia are strained surrounding the case of Na’ama Issachar, after a small quantity of drugs were found on her. The situation became increasingly complicated as Russia told Israel that it will not release Na’ama if Israel honors a US extradition request for Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov. Burkov was arrested in 2015 on an Interpol warrant, and he is wanted by US authorities for embezzlement connected to a major credit card scheme, which allegedly earned him millions of dollars.
Rav Betzalel Mendel, a leading figure in the Moscow Jewish community, one who has assisted Israelis seeking assistance with Russian authorities many times, is quoted telling Kikar Shabbos News that at present, the local authorities have been told the Israelis being held are visiting the local Jewish community, and they were released.
At present, at least according to Rabbi Mendel, it is not certain that the delay of the group is directly connected to the case of Na’ama. He adds that he is concerned for the plight of all Jews and is being mispallel for Na’ama as well. He adds that it is important that when arriving, travelers have an address where they will be staying, even if only a hotel, a hotel reservation to show, or a phone number.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry reports on Wednesday that the matter of dozens being delayed in the airport is being checked.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)